8 November 2017



'I will not be pushed, stamped, indexed, filed, briefed or de-briefed. My life is my own.'
Patrick McGoohan as Number Six in THE PRISONER.

'He was direct, he was driven, he had a purpose. Those elements all presented themselves in Number Six.'
Catherine McGoohan on her famous father.

Remember THE PRISONER? All seventeen episodes of the cult science fiction/spy fiction TV series first aired on British television in 1967. The show was the brainchild of handsome, talented actor Patrick McGoohan, the man who'd turned down the chance to play both James Bond and Simon Templar, the Saint.

He'd previously starred in a secret agent programme called DANGER MAN. Danger Man, a spy by the name of John Drake, seems to have given McGoohan the idea for his cult show THE PRISONER. What if a spy-slash- secret agent like John Drake tried to resign his job, McGoohan pondered, but for some reason he wasn't allowed to? This was the exact premise of THE PRISONER.

IN MY MIND, the documentary under discussion, was made by a chap called Chris Rodley who was a longtime fan of Patrick McGoohan and his iconic creation, THE PRISONER. It's coming out to commemorate the 50th anniversary of THE PRISONER, and it tells the story of one of Chris's earliest film-making experiences, that is to say, interviewing Patrick McGoohan in 1983 to get his thoughts on the concept of THE PRISONER for a Channel 4 documentary.

Patrick McGoohan was a man who was, apparently, notoriously difficult to interview. This was probably partially because he genuinely thought that actors talking about themselves was 'self-indulgent' and that they shouldn't be inveigled by interviewers into giving away all their secrets. Besides, he was embarrassed to talk about the success of THE PRISONER in case it seemed like he was taking credit for everything.

But Chris Rodley does actually encourage the tight-lipped McGoohan to open up and reminisce about the show he created that has a huge cult following today, a following who've no doubt been hugely looking forward to the 50th anniversary of their favourite show.

It was a ground-breaking show in terms of science fiction and spy fiction and Patrick McGoohan came up with all the ideas himself, for the sets, the wardrobes (the smart little blazers!) and the equipment, such as the dinky and distinctive little funny-shaped phones.

Catherine McGoohan, Patrick's daughter, features in the documentary and she says that it was incredibly important to her father to 'keep his concept intact- he didn't just want another secret agent show.' It looks like her father was successful in his endeavours. The show seems to have been exactly as he imagined it, thanks to his determination and the painstaking hours and hours of meticulous research he put into it.

It took him roughly thirty-six hours to write each script, a process he humorously describes as being akin to childbirth. Having previously pushed two young 'uns the size and weight of bowling bowls out of my nether regions with only gas and air to dull the agonising pain, dear Patrick, I respectfully disagree...! 

However, I can see completely why he thought of the show as his 'baby.' Probably most writers, myself included, feel the same about something they've 'laboured' over so intensively. But just don't call it 'labour,' baby, not unless you've actually experienced it for yourself...!

Patrick McGoohan starred in the title role of THE PRISONER himself, as the secret agent
who- you guessed it!- tries to resign his position but is gassed in his London apartment just as he's packing to do a bunk and wakes up in a place he's never been to before in his life.

It's a strange and isolated Village cut off from the rest of civilisation by mountains and the sea. It's a bit like the Hotel California that the Eagles sang about, you know, where you can check out but you can never leave? Yeah, it's like that...! Does it even really exist, this wacky place?

Everyone in the Village is known only by a number, a concept which McGoohan's character, henceforth known as Number Six, rebels against vigorously. He's not just a number, he's a man. Quite right, of course, but there's no point rebelling against the rules of this odd little Village. Rules is rules...

Escape is supposedly impossible in the Village. Everyone is monitored all the time and anyway, the anti-escape orb called Rover is constantly patrolling the place. This doesn't stop Number Six from trying to escape in every single episode though, even though he's watched all the time by Number Two, played by Leo McKern of RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY fame.

It's meant to be Number Two's job to wriggle all of Number Six's secret agent secrets out of him, as well as what's seen as the biggest secret of all, the secret of why he tried to resign in the first place. Apparently, it's not a free country any more...

Number Two is directly answerable to the unknown and unseen Number One, the Village head honcho, the big cheese, the top banana and so on. The whole series hurtles its way towards the big reveal of Number One and everyone in Britain, from Sir Lew Grade (the guy who commissioned the series and who gave Patrick McGoohan free rein to create his own show just the way he wanted it) downwards, was dying to find out what they'd been waiting weeks to know. Who the bloody hell was Number One...?

In IN MY MIND, you'll see a relaxed, tanned and bearded Patrick McGoohan commenting wryly on the ending and the way that he decided not to show his face in public for a day or two after the finale of the show aired on television. People expecting a James Bond-esque villain may have been disappointed but Patrick was happy that he'd been true to himself.

'As long as people feel something about it, that's the great thing,' he says in Chris Rodley's film. His daughter Catherine remarks about the show's famous ending: 'He was brave and courageous because he went for it. He went for an ending that had longevity.' Further to these remarks, Patrick McGoohan added: 'You can play with these kind of things forever; the sky's the limit.'

I wouldn't be so gauche as to give away any spoilers to the show's ending here, but I do remember the night my favourite television show of all time ended for good back in 2007. When the screen went black on Tony, Carmela and Anthony Junior Soprano in the diner, I died a thousand little deaths. The ending of a show that's dear to you is a big deal. I know how desperately important it is to the viewers, trust me, and so did Patrick McGoohan.

Catherine said of the Village created by her father, and for which the show used the utterly stunning little Portmeirion village in North Wales as the base for most of their shoots: 'He created a place that was surreal, a place that was another world, a sort of Neverland.' He loved to be on set, apparently, and he really missed the show when it ended. Well, don't we all miss good things when they come to an end? It's always a poignant sort of time.

The footage of the interview shot in the empty house in Laurel Canyon has never before been shown. I'm personally not old enough to have watched THE PRISONER first time around in the late 1960s, but the interviews are shot with such love and obvious affection for the subject matter that I was in tears by the end of the film. Fans of the show will love this documentary. It's literally a must-have for fans of Patrick McGoohan, a man who by all accounts was 'lovable, generous and surprisingly honest,' and THE PRISONER.

One of the funniest parodies of THE PRISONER was done by my dear old friends THE SIMPSONS. In the episode entitled THE COMPUTER WORE MENACE SHOES, Homer Simpson finds himself trapped on an evil island after the powers-that-be decide that his 'Mister X' blog, which reveals dangerous town secrets to an unsuspecting public, is a menace to society. And to their top-secret organisation on 'the island...'

Patrick McGoohan himself plays Number Six, who's been confined to the evil island since inventing the bottomless peanut bag. Now, I don't really see what's so bad about that, unless they're referring to the way that, when you buy a big bag of peanuts for special occasions, there are still a load of bloody peanuts in the bag, like, six months later. I love the way that Homer Simpson, when asked on the island what his number is, retorts defiantly: 'I am not a number! I am a man... no, wait, I'm Number Five...!'

Also, in the episode of THE SIMPSONS about the cult known as the Movementarians, Marge is chased by a giant blobby anti-escape orb when she tries to, erm, escape from the greedy, money-grubbing cult. 

When Homer pricks the orb with a fork in the 'evil island' episode, it dissolves immediately. 'That was easy!' declares a flummoxed Homer. So there was nothing much to it after all...! 'Why did you think that a balloon would stop them?' one scientist says accusingly to another scientist after Homer makes his getaway. 'Shut up, that's why!' retorts the second scientist huffily.

Even Sir Lew Grade, the man who'd said that Patrick McGoohan's idea for the show was 'just crazy enough to work,' wanted to know what the deal was with Rover, the giant balloon. And when an entire country is waiting on tenterhooks for the dénouement of your television programme, you know you're onto a winner. Be seeing you, dear old Number Six. Be seeing you...

IN MY MIND is available to buy now from NETWORK RELEASING. You can also purchase fantastic Anniversary Limited Edition box-sets of THE PRISONER, jam-packed with terrific extra features, from NETWORK RELEASING as well.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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